It’s Electron Dance’s first open comments thread!

What are you thinking about? What are you playing? Does the death of Google Reader affect you? Will the incoming Pope impact the world of videogames? Have you read quite enough about Dishonored already? Would you like me to play Mass Effect at last? What, really?

Insert coin to think. It’s your move.

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64 thoughts on “Open Mike #1

  1. I might as well start some balls rolling. I’m addicted to Probability 0, struggling with Starseed Pilgrim and fearful of Teleglitch. Not going to play another “big game” right now after Dishonored took over my life for three months.

  2. I’m aching to try Dishonoured, but I had to return it to the friend who loaned it to me, as he was taking part in a game-wise “Reading” club. Only got halfway through the first mission myself.

    Now I’m trying to revisit games featuring weightlessness, as research for a personal project. So far it’s been slim pickin’s though — only Dark Void (sort of), Dead Space, Descent (sort of…?), Shattered Horizon, and 0Space. Would love to hear any other suggestions…

  3. SCII:HotS came out, so that’s my life for the next few weeks. And Dota. But, man, thanks for reminding me that I need to play Starseed Pilgrim, Teleglitch and Probability 0. All three of those are on my “must play” list, but at some point I’ve got to find time to MAKE games too, right?

    What’s really on my mind is this Google Reader thing. I almost cried when I found out. I’ve been using Reader since high school. I like it more than most of the pets I’ve had. I don’t know what I’m going to do now.

  4. I too am chagrined about Google Reader, although the writing was on the wall when they got rid of the sharing features.

    I’m still slowly working my way through another playthrough of Deus Ex, although I’ve hit that point in most stealth games where the developers get bored and just start throwing a shitload of enemies at you. Right now I have multiple killer robots that can see through my cloak patrolling around an large open area. Fun!

  5. Well, since you asked:

    I’m thinking about butts. I’m playing Super Hexagon. I think Google has killed the internet for me. I don’t like this Pope fellow (and I know of him since a very long time, being Argentinian myself), he won’t do anything good to videogames, and probably nothing bad either. I haven’t read anything about Dishonored ‘cept what you wrote, you tell me if that’s “quite enough” or not. I would like you to play whatever you like. Yes, really.

  6. I already miss Google Reader. I will add to the “Wow, I need to stop putting off Starseed Pilgrim and Probability 0 and play them!” chorus. In fact, I bought them two seconds ago. You gave someone A SALE.

    As for what I’m playing, I’m always playing Magic the Gathering 2013, but I’m really playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution and hate-playing Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, which is just a miserable video game. Human Revolution, of course, is not a miserable video game, though I’ve never played it very much. Playing it next to Castlevania, though, is like putting the Mona Lisa next to my five year old drawings of squirrels.

  7. I am still working my way slowly through Antichamber and Year Walk, both are crashing on me annoyingly but still interesting enough to make me keep trying. I think I’m in love with new Devil may Cry, and I haven’t even finished that one yet either.

    This week has been a hell of an education for me on roguelikes, a type of thing I’ve studiously avoided before! I dug into Dungeons of Dredmor on Amanda Lange’s advice, and also into Brogue because damn if that game doesn’t have beautiful ASCII art in the screenshots. I think I could see myself losing a ton of time to this.

  8. My girlfriend and I are playing Dishonored on my former housemate’s 360. Seeing as we’re both awful at stealthing with a controller, we’ve pretty much stuck to a super-lethal run. It’s nice to play something recent, especially when it’s something relatively open.

    I haven’t touched Gothic 3 in months and barely remember how to get to half the places I’ve been, but I’m too reticent to restart. The community patch seems rock-solid though, as I haven’t experiences any glitches at all. It’s super-cheap on Steam right now, so if anyone has the time (and Gothic 3 definitely takes a LOT of that), go ahead and grab it. I still think Gothic 2 is better, even with the murderous difficulty curve, if for no other reason than being unable to climb up ledges in 3.

    I stopped at a completely random point in Evergrace when we needed to repurpose our PS2 as a DVD player, but I’ll probably be back at it soon. The areas are getting more puzzle-focused, which I actually dislike. While the combat can get repetitive, but you only seriously keep repeating it in puzzley areas, as the enemies respawn while you’re figuring it out. It’s like some weird forebear to Demon’s/Dark Souls’ platforming hazards, meaning they’re only hazards because they’re built around how the movement is not meant for platforming at all. From Software’s King’s Field series is still more of a clear ancestor to the Souls games, but you can tell they were testing some of those third-person action-RPG ideas in Evergrace.

    I’ve also been shuffling through my huge amount of unplayed free/indie stuff sitting on my computer, but the only game I have liked enough to keep after winning was Zaga-33. I beat the Cortex with 1 HP left! Everything else could be filed other “neato” or “meh”.

  9. @BeamSplashX I’m playing the Zaga-33! I think my highest score is 16. I bought King’s Field 4 once. I’ve never been able to play it for more than a few minutes. It feels so extremely awkward to control. I know, I know, I should stick with it, but my life is so short.

    @Switchbreak You read that “all you need to know” Roguelike article that was going around too? I’ve always had trouble understanding the reward of roguelikes. They’re one of those cult genres like shmups that fans get a deep, deep pleasure out of, but I’ve never been quite able to get. I’m gonna make my way through some of the games in the list–maybe it’ll click. I want to play Antichamber badly, but I don’t think my PC can handle it. Devil May Cry is not my favorite series, but the demo of the new one was fantastic, and as soon as Gamefly sees fit I’ll play it.

    @Tom Lords of Shadow is such a love-it-or-hate-it game. It completely worked for me and is one of my go-to games when I want to beat up monsters in a very pretty world for a few minutes, but yeah, if you don’t like its controls–which, while I don’t consider them to be, could be totally justified as being derided as simple button mashing–or its scatteredness, then you won’t like it. I enjoyed that the game had no real focus–for me it was kind of a bunch of random variations on some themes, and not all of the levels work. I loved the first segment of Human Revolution; once I got to China I found the hub level to be kind of annoying to get through. I’ve been vaguely meaning to give it another try.

    @Eric Brasure I don’t care about Google Reader and I don’t care about you.

    @Amanda who hasn’t posted yet but I assume will, I’m super excited for YOUR roguelike. I don’t really understand what’s going on with this 7DRL thing but good luck with it!

    @HM I’m happy you’re doing this finally! I hope it is working well!

As for me, I’m doing Skyrim and Cart Life for Research Purposes, and for fun I’m making my way through System Shock 2 for the first time. Well, really, the second. I’d started a run with a Psy character and was having trouble–I quit at the cargo holds. I started again, I’m playing a Tech character and doing well. I just got past the SHODAN reveal. 

What I’m loving about this, and am noticing very heavily, is how the game totally doesn’t care whether or not I get lost. This has been on my mind since Joel’s first Dishonored piece, but it’s especially interesting compared to Dead Space. DS is in a lot of ways a remake of System Shock 2, at least in broad strokes: A ship gets slowly attacked by an alien hive mind; you find yourself trapped, finding out the stories of how the crew was taken over, and slowly repairing everything into working order. In Dead Space, you can click a button and get a beam of light directing you to the next goal: You never get lost and you never really need to look at the map. It’s a terrifying, claustrophobic game…but it’s super friendly in some ways. SS2 gives you a general idea of what to do, and has a map, but if you’re not paying attention, you’ll get lost, you’ll be unsure–and that adds so much to the tension of the game. Obvious stuff, but appreciated. Dark Souls did that as well–and yet for all fo the wandering in it, I don’t think you ever get “lost”–there’s always something else to do or learn or see in that game and even if you’re going through the same area more than once, there’s still shit you miss…

    @Eric Brasure okay I’m ready to play Dark Souls again. I’m gonna take it back next time I come over!

    I’ve been thinking about The Void more and more. Seriously, let’s get a group going to play this how about? It’s one of the most draining and brutal games ever made. We should all have this experience.

  10. Yes, HM, I want you to play Mass Effect already. And when you do, I want us to do a podcast where we talk about your impressions. If you get around to it by Christmas, I’ll be happy.

    Since the Google Reader thing seems to be a topic, I’ll just say that for a while I used it regularly. It was essentially to a daily podcast I did for a while, but I don’t use it at all now.

  11. I’ve been noticing the number of games that have one-word titles with negative prefixes: Dishonored, InFamous, Uncharted. So I’ve started development on Nontendered. It’s a sports-sim/zombie apocalypse game that follows an undead pitcher, cruelly rejected by his old team after being framed for a late-season collapse, as he embarks on a stealthy rampage through his major league opponents until the final boss battle, where he re-signs with the same team at a lower salary.

    In real life, I bought and finished Glider but will give it another try, when I have five minutes worth of procrastination and should be doing something else I play yet another round of Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, when I have fifteen minutes and want a certain experience and my trackpad’s working I take another whack at Bit.Trip Beat (I can usually finish a level on Easy mode but past the first one I’m so awful it hardly counts, and I still can’t beat the final boss), if I have time and need to unwind before bed I replay some of NightSky, I somehow still haven’t finished Counterfeit Monkey, and the other night I got through the first part of the Catacombs in Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden (c’mon, the Mac port is only three months old) and it was great but there was so long between save points! I had to play for an hour at a time! This doesn’t suit my lifestyle! Honestly I don’t even know why I think I’m qualified to comment on gaming blogs.

    Nick: Have you tried the flash game Maverick? It may not have actual weightlessness anywhere but on a lot of the levels it’s quite floaty. I suppose underwater games like Aquaria wouldn’t be of interest.

  12. The old Xcom is still the king of rogue-likes to me. Flaws aside, it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played. Flaws included, it’s typically an enjoyable/scary experience. Oh Xenonauts~

    The last game I played that was worth writing about is easily worse than Polymorphous Perversity, so I’ll avoid mentioning it. I’ve also become quite rapt in Total War again; nothing like thoroughly kicking your enemy’s ass and leaving a monument to remind him of it to put you in a good mood.

    @Nick: Best I can think of is Allegiance; an old super-hardcore multiplayer space-shooter. It’s open source and still has a good community, in case that matters.

  13. Oh hey that’s Droqen’s stuff! If the expanded version of Fishbane includes the ability to save your product within a world then it is worth the money all by itself! (You may detect some bitterness there. Really, the web version was a fantastic game, some of the better puzzles I’ve ever seen and really made me feel that I’d learned something and gained powers, but I might have been able to beat the Lonely Valley if I didn’t have to repeat the obscenity penultimate screen in order to try the obscenity obscenity last one.)

    I feel as though I should be all over Probability.0 but I shamefully never got anywhere with Spelunky, though maybe my new computer won’t have such crazy level load times. I never did figure out how to drop from a hanging position, though. Anyone know how to drop from a hanging position? Taking damage in the tutorial is embarrassing.

  14. matt w: It does not include that option ): Totally could, though–honestly the only reasons I’m not doing that RIGHT NOW are dumb reasons. I’ll try to remember to think about adding that after gdc!

  15. I have been playing (too much) castle doctrine. Once you get past the theming, it is a really amazing asymmetrical async dungeon planning puzzle solving game. The core loop really makes you want to keep coming back to it and building up your defenses and breaking into the houses of those less fortunate. Every time you come back to the game it forces you to deal with the mess made by all the intruders as well. I think I need to make a clean break from it so it doesn’t consume my entire life.

  16. Droqen — excellent! I carp because I love; Fishbane is an amazing game but also AAAARRRGGGH.

    I was oddly moved to go back to the game and find that I still had all my (97) fish after all these years, even though I know that’s because my browser remembered its cookies after all these years.

    Anyway, everyone, Fishbane is great and I will be checking out the rest of the stuff in the pack.

  17. @Eric — Yes and yes. It was a daily, short form, mostly hard news podcast called Gaming News in Three Minutes (GNi3). I still wish someone did something like that. The only reason I was doing it was because I wanted something like that to exist (actual news, no fluff pieces, under five minutes). Between the day job and other writing, I couldn’t keep up.

    I still think the idea works. Thinking out loud here, if there was maybe two or three people doing it, rotating so everyone only did a couple of days a week…. That might work but even still it’s more something I’d want to listen to then do myself.

  18. I’m really liking this discussion because it’s helping me to find a lot of new games. I have no idea what this Starseed Fishsticks nonsense you people are talking about is but I’m downloading it now. I do keep up with some of The Sites, but I find they either cover EVERYTHING and it’s hard to separate it all (particularly when it’s a site like Jay is Games which does an excellent job of describing the mechanics of a game but takes a fairly neutral tone about games’ quality–although given the low investment in most of the games they cover, that’s not the worst problem), they go very in depth about a few games but miss a lot, or they’re curated but not to my taste. This is nice because we get to talk more casually about whatever we’re playing! I have been playing Ridiculous Fishing. It is enjoyable.

    I played this one the other day–quick flash game, but I find it’s one of those which has surprisingly stuck with me. It has a rough charm and an unexpected sense of poignancy. It is Japanese and it is called SACRIFICE:

  19. It’s great to see so much conversation here, I am definitely encouraged to give this a go again. Shall we try monthly or more regular?

    Too much for me to respond to personally so I’ll cherry pick through.

    @Nick: I tried to think of zero g games but I think you had all the examples I could recall. Wondering what your personal project is…?

    @Malky: Searching around for a Google Reader replacement right now. I used to do all my reading with a desktop app of some kind (e.g. Firefox Brief) but was so overwhelmed with feeds I started doing it on the move so Reader became vital. On a site note, it means Electron Dance’s subscriber stats are going to be garbage over the next few months with some people re-subscribing through another channel and then, on D-Day, suddenly losing over 200 subscribers.

    @David: It’s not quite enough Dishonored yet. After next week’s piece I can declare it’s enough. Recommendations? Well I’m not a great Twine lover but have a few favourites. There was this Twine game called Úrquel: The Black Dragon which I liked. You should give it a go =) I am not sure how much I should deconstruct your thoughts about butts.

    @Tom: Probability 0 is fairly easy to get into. Starseed Pilgrim requires commitment. It’s easy to bounce off that game and I say that as someone still struggling through. I intend to get round to DXHR sometime in the next five years!

    @Switchbreak: Yeah, roguelikes are an interesting genre that I also have some difficulty getting into these days (I was a fan of the Apshai series back when Rogue was a game). Teleglitch and Zaga-33 are both rogue-y, of course. I still have your old DMC3 recommendation, you know, from 3 years ago (I think). Good luck on bringing the roguelike home.

    @BeamSplashX: I am always amazed at, well, how many games exist. I remember a time when I used to have a list of games I wanted to play and knew I *would* play them. These days, that goal is an impossible one. Now it’s a list of games I think I might be able to fit it.

    @Richard: Switchbreak is the programmer for Amanda Lange’s roguelike. Thanks for the idea for the open comments thread, almost certainly going to do this again. On Dead Space, I felt like was a clone of System Shock 2, but as entertainment I had a good time. No one takes the story seriously, unlike SS2 which everyone takes seriously. That game is big and proper nonlinear in places; I love being lost.

    How would a support group for The Void work? And Oh God, I can see you hating Starseed Pilgrim. I’m going to continue my usual schtick of going deep into one game at a time. To be honest, when I start going shotgun blast (e.g. Eurogamer Expo, IndieCade East) it doesn’t command much attention.

    @Jordan: Okay, Jordan, we’ll see what we can do =) It of course means I can’t read any of your current work on Mass Effect.

    @matt: You recommend Barkley? Not that I promise to play it of course, ha. SAIS is a great one for passing some time but Probability 0 is doing that for me right now because one game only lasts about 5 minutes – for me, anyway. That used to be qrth-phyl but got better at it, and would end up wired after each session – had to stop that as a pre-bedtime meditation!

    I am happy to have people posting here who find it difficult to spend “proper time” on games. It’s an alternative view about what games should be and how they can deliver – Brendon Chung was talking about this on the podcast a few weeks ago. More devs are thinking about this all the time.

    @mwm: Are you following the development of Xenonauts?

    @Droqen: Hey, thanks for stopping by! I am determined to understand Starseed Pilgrim and made some progress already…

  20. @jonbro: Uh-oh, the Castle Doctrine has set off my Neptune’s Pride “Real Life Invasion” alarm is going off.

  21. Well, I’m lucky enough that my personal project is now an actual full-time job, working with some friends; the project’s called Red Rover, and it’s about the human voyage from Earth to Mars. I’m trying to keep the game somewhat plausible, and given that the first ships out yonder aren’t likely to fake gravity, I’m playing with & researching FPS controls that are intuitive enough so people don’t get frustrated, but complete enough that people can play around in the space somewhat.

    Otherwise — yeah, I’m also trying to get back into SS2, given GOG’s recent sale, and the Vintage Game Club’s current focus on it. Giving the PSY branch a go for the first time and it’s…challenging. Definitely has me rethinking how I used to approach certain spaces. Of course, I’m also struggling to find time to just [i]play[/i] the game…

  22. @HM I did not know that! In that case…

    @Switchbreak Please accept any “good luck” comments I’ve made about Amanda’s roguelike for yourself!

    @HM Believe it or not, Starseed Pilgrim is the one in the pack I’m liking the most! It’s admittedly the only one I spent much time with–gave a cursory play of Fishbane, a few rounds of P0, but I spent about an hour on Starseed.

    I feel like a lot has been written on gaming-as-black-box, that games are systems that you put in some input, get an output, and then use that to refine your input. I know when people talk about consolification, a lot of the times they’re talking about making that black box uninterestingly transparent. I’m also very interested in games as reward delivery systems/Skinner boxes. Something like Skyrim is super open about this–it’s a constant pipeline of “Do this/okay good job!” When I’m playing it, I get a weird mix of satisfaction and impotence–satisfaction because the game is designed that you can accomplish SOMETHING even in a 10-15 minute play session, frustration because I’m not really *doing* anything. It’s a sinecure. Starseed is an extremely coy game in a lot of ways–it spends about 30 seconds explaining its controls and leaves you to figure out pretty much everything about its mechanics.

    But it’s pretty enough, and remember context–I’d gotten it on the recommendation of a thread full of people, so even though I was getting nothing done, I was finding it pleasant enough to just dump little seeds everywhere and make little environments–considering it almost a toy rather than a game. Since there’s really little work/investment in any given round–in the early stages at least it’s not like you’re spending hours and hours setting up a certain environment and, when it fails, waiting for a long load screen–so I kind of enjoyed puttering around. Then, eventually, some of the mechanics started to gel. Starseed isn’t really open about the fact that it IS a game in the first place–it appears to be a gigantic metapuzzle–and so not only do you get little reward neurons firing every time a mechanic clicks into place, discovering that it actually IS a game was pretty neat. Will I beat it? I have no idea.

    System Shock 2’s story is good, but like most games these days I’m taking it as window dressing. It’s a completely ambient narrative–other than moments like The Many vision, it’s mostly told through logs and stuff, and so it’s completely unobtrusive. The first Dead Space ran with that, and while it isn’t as nuanced as SS2 is–and it certainly doesn’t have as strong of a villain as SHODAN, but it does some things very effectively. There’s that moment early on in SS2 where you’re looking for the code and you find the guy on the hospital bed who mumbles a few things and dies. I get the sense that original players would have LOVED that moment–for me it was kind of an anticlimax, especially considering that that’s one of the things that Dead Space does brilliantly. When you arrive on the Ishimura, everything’s certainly gone to hell, but there’s still a lot more to go–there are a lot more scenes of people being killed by the aliens, or dying, or going mad; throughout the game there’s an undercurrent of worry that, if Isaac had gotten there even three or four hours earlier he might have been able to stop a lot more people from being killed. It’s a very interesting feeling of futility–and given the game’s macguffin of “find your girlfriend” as an almost cliche horror trope to keep you on the ship, a very worrying one. Dead Space does a lot with making you JUST too late to save someone–by the time you wake up on the Von Braun, it feels like it’s been “too late” for a while now and that you’re mostly trying to make sure it’s not “too late” for Earth.

    But the details of SS2 are themselves interesting–again, the presence of SHODAN goes a long way to that. Dead Space throws a bunch of creepy terms at you but mostly puts you on a ship with a bunch of aliens and tells you to survive, and that’s totally fine by me. In the sequel, unfortunately, they made the mistake of thinking I gave a shit about the plot, and so we have all of this nonsense about real marker and fake marker and red marker and scientology and remember how we were going to set this game on an elaborate space station called The Sprawl? Well here’s a bunch of corridors.

    I’m liking games that are best conquered by inches–it accommodates the fact that I have a job and an active band (Riot Fox is in the demo studio this week!). I don’t like most casual games because I want to feel like I’m working towards something larger–I generally view games as projects rather than processes–and in that case games like Skyrim are actually really good. Like I mentioned, if I’ve got a little time before I want to go to sleep, I can bum around a dungeon or two, or maybe do a sidequest, and I’ll have hacked away at a tiny piece that adds up after many play sessions. More traditional RPGs–15 minutes of grinding isn’t THAT much fun, doesn’t accomplish THAT much in some games, and doesn’t give you enough time to develop the state of Flow that you need–one of the reasons I play games like Dragon Quest is because I actually find them fairly good as a medititative focus. The mobile games I’ve been enjoying lately—10000000000000 and Ridiculous Fishing among them–have a larger project but only take a couple of minutes to do any given round. If nothing else, Skyrim is a demonstration that it’s more than possible to use the casual games model in order to create an epic.

    As for a The Void support group, I’m not sure. I’ve joined the odd Game Club type of deal over the years, and I’m enjoying following the System Shock 2 discussion that Michael Abbott is doing, but these days I don’t usually feel inspired to participate. (I don’t integrate as well into online communities as I once did, and I’m sure the reasons why are fairly obvious.) I don’t want to simply write an article about the game–although it’s on my bucket list–because it’s the kind of game where it’s going to be meaningless if you haven’t played it. I guess my aims would be some prosthelyzing or however you spell that word–mainstream gamers haven’t heard of it, and it’s been way overshadowed by Pathologic for snooty critics like us–because it’s very much a major, major work. We take games like Bioshock and Portal and Spec Ops: The Line and (justifiably!) praise them because of their treatments of videogame goals and missions–but at the end of the day, they’re fairly straightforward and easy-to-understand subversions of them. Those three are probably more Important than games like The Void–simply because they have a much clearer message in them. The Void isn’t as interested about making a Point as those games are, and so it takes that concept into some extremely odd and difficult-to-articulate places. One of the things Eric and I talk about sometimes is works which require a lot of Theory to understand. A book like Ulysses is really interesting to *me* because I’ve studied lit and writing, but it’s legitimately meaningless to anyone who’s not a lit student. Meanwhile Eric has warned me off of–I think it was Solaris by Tarkovsky, because he said that my lack of love for Film would make the movie a very tedious movie to watch–there are a LOT of things in there that he’d pick up on that I’d miss, and I’d probably find it very boring. The Void is like that in a lot of ways–you really need to know games in order to appreciate it beyond its legitimate aesthetic value. (It’s so achingly beautiful it’s absolutely horrifying to play–the game feels unnatural in a way that most games only suggest.)

    So i guess when I say a support group, I’m partially meaning that literally–it’s a deeply, deeply traumatic and disturbing game and it’s not one I’m going to go in again alone or sober–but I really just want to get a bunch of smart people together and try to tease out what the fuck the game means. I know what’s coming and I’ve got this total deer-in-headlights look around me–I’m really, really interested to talk to people who know nothing about the game and watch their mounting horror at their realizations.

    (So, like, if anyone wants to play the game and wants to do Something with it, we’ll all figure that out, but do yourselves a favor and read NOTHING about this game–it’s best to go in as unspoiled as possible. But show of hands–who’s interested in playing The Void at some point?)

  23. Hmmmm, I just decided to give Dry Voices another whack and it sounds like Starseed might be sort of like that on a much bigger scale. Is that possible? What I’m saying is, everyone give Dry Voices a try and explain it to me because I’ve only been able to unlock one level of secrets and also I have an absolutely crap sense of direction so the whole navigating-a-maze aspect isn’t working so well for me. It shouldn’t take too long, not the first few times!

    If I have to scry video at some point I’ll be annoyed.

  24. @HM: Did you just recommend my own first game to me? I’ll take it as a great compliment. Maybe I’ll recommend you my second one. And what’s with this open comment thread? I’m not familiar with the practice. Has this ever happened on any other blog before? Also, my thoughts about butts are not for any mortal to deconstruct.

  25. Oh yeah, Barkley. I have no frame of reference to judge the gameplay really, nor have I played enough of it to do so, but if you read a description and thought “That sounds funny/cool” you will probably enjoy it. Being British might not help (would I enjoy “Beckham, Shut Up and Bend: Gaiden”?) but being unfamiliar with JRPG’s hasn’t prevented me from enjoying it, except for the part where I had to use a walkthrough early on because I couldn’t figure out which doors you could go into.

  26. @Nick: It mostly just boils down to what level of complexity you want to allow. If you want something fairly simple, you could put all the navigational buttons on the mouse (drag the mouse to look around, use the scroll wheel to control thrust [you move in the direction you’re facing], and use the left and right mouse buttons for rolling). Beyond that, you could add two buttons per axis to allow for movement in a direction you aren’t currently facing (incredibly odd in a current generation spaceship). And since it seems that your game takes place in both space and on the ground, remember that it’s best to keep different control schemes as similar as possible to minimize confusion.

    You should also look into Kerbal Space Program (I just remembered it). I haven’t played it myself, but the controls seem to revolve around using a 3D map of the solar system to manipulate orbits.

    @HM: I look at the Xenonauts site occasionally. I haven’t played it yet (why play a buggy game when it’s just a substitute for a buggy game?) but intend to buy it when it’s properly released.

  27. @David: Hmm, I think I got stuck in Eioioio. I’ve checked every room and every item and there doesn’t seem to be anyway forward as far as I can tell. Open comment threads have been on RPS (“tell us what you’re playing”) and I also remember them from political blog Eschaton. It was Richard Goodness’ idea though. While I was in NY he tried to convince me to add a forum; I rejected that because of the ghost town problem/additional maintenance required and then he suggested an open comments thread as an alternative.

    There are plans afoot this year to try to do different things with Electron Dance. The “Open Mike” segments are just one.

    @Richard: I’m making progress with Starseed Pilgrim at last! I’m not sure what to suggest about a support group but maybe I will when I get closer to playing The Void.

  28. Cart Life on Steam! Electron Dance Game of the Year plaudit on Cart Life Steam page! Cart Life finally purchased! Sentence fragment!

  29. Yeah I was just about to say something like that, you beat me to it Sid. Cart Life on Steam, awesome stuff. And even weirder to see Electron Dance linked from a Steam page.

  30. Games are destroying me slowly but surely. Have gone through 14 games since January and still have 6 more to go.

    I sort of hate my life at the moment as the weekends just aren’t long enough.

    Other than that I am pretty good.

  31. Hooray for Cart Life on Steam! Now you weird foreigners know how we feel when Obama got elected. Also this puts a new wrinkle into my Cart Life piece.

    Is it cool if we shamelessly plug shit on here? Because I wrote a Thing. I’m moving to making fun of New York Times writers now. What’s a career?

    @badger commander At some point you need to make a choice between home/family/job/hygiene and videogames. I’ve chosen the latter and haven’t looked back. 14 games though? Damn son.

  32. Hmm. 14 games. I think I did Dishonored, not sure I conquered much else.

    Richard, I don’t have much in the way of rules right now although if this becomes a hotbed of link spam then I reserve the right to change my shit later.

    Tomorrow’s piece is going to be up late (if at all tomorrow). Brain still in deep swamp after an exhausting weekend of looking after children and cross-country driving and writing is not working out.

  33. Probability 0: Purchased. This thing where I’m actually buying games is worrying me a bit, though I suppose I have to hold off on Kentucky Route Zero until the term is over anyway. (Note: I’m not attempting to cry poverty, just that I sort of feel like I ought to be buying music instead of games.) So much more fun than the Binding of Isaac!

  34. Also: Ithaka of the Clouds is funded (5 days left) and the latest Bundle in the Box has launched.

    @matt: I keep getting better at Probability 0 but it also continues to be cruel to me. I try not to buy games unless I’m going to actually play them now – there are rare exceptions where I want to fund a particular independent – because I have such a backlog already.

    @BeamSplashX: Thanks Beam. They even spelt it right.

  35. @HM: Oh, I totally forgot to answer that “stuck in Eioioio” comment. It seems you’re stuck in the “point where the rain ends” puzzle. The plain and simple spoiler is that you have to push a dot on the plaque at the library. The one after the word “rain.”

    Funny thing, half the players never figure that out, and the other half solve it immediately. This one gal even told me the dot is so visible I shouldn’t’ve bothered to put the hint in the father’s diary.

  36. Ahhhhh! Yes, that’s done it. I didn’t see the dot at all. And I thought I was so smart. Nice, interesting change in the tense towards the end.

  37. I just completely made progress in Starseed Pilgrim, but I have no idea how.

  38. @matt: I’m never entirely sure if I’m making significant progress in SP. There are things I know I haven’t achieved yet although I keep on wondering if there are secret mechanics I am missing. I’ve given the game some time off at the moment.

  39. @hm @matt w Man, if only there were some kind of forum where we could all pool our Starseed Pilgrim knowledge in an effort to share knowledge and work together to cooperate in order to help each other out. Either of you guys know a place where we could do that?

  40. Trouble is, Richard, I don’t want spoilers! If someone were to say “did you manage to figure out ‘X'” it might prompt someone else to go, “huh, when does ‘X’ happen?” The experience is fragile to discussion.

    The only way to discuss it safely with another is to tentatively step through the story of your experiences together, acknowledge you’re sharing something intimate and special. Yes. Starseed Pilgrim conversation as foreplay.

    I do know from Twitter chatter that this game has an end, which is a good thing to know.

  41. I guess we could rot13 everything? Maybe not, though. You guys are surely way ahead of me, because I was at a place where it was absolutely and completely obvious that I was making no progress whatsoever — like “I hadn’t yet figured out that you have to press Z to get off Cave Story’s menu screen” levels of non-progress — and then I did something that actually made a lasting change to the game world. Then I was able to figure out how to do something similar again (though I’m still not sure how I did it the first time). So it’ll probably be a while before I get to the “I’m not sure if I’m just spinning my wheels” stage again (though “again” is a misnomer, since it was “I’m obviously spinning my wheels”).

    I hope that was vague enough! There’s actually a more specific thing I’ll say, which — you guys are totally past this, right? Can I say it in rot13?

  42. @matt, I sounds like I’m significantly ahead of you, so I’m not scared of something you rot13.

  43. Richard, rot13 is a simple cipher — move every letter along 13 letters. will let you decode this:

    V gubhtug gur xrlubyr jnf na hc neebj.

    So yeah, you guys are ahead of me. No spoilers.

  44. Oh, and I had another thought which is completely off-topic and that I sort of wanted to tweet to someone but I don’t tweet: Why doesn’t someone make a first-person shooter where you’re shooting with a camera? Not Fatal Frame but a non-violent paparazzi game. A stealth cover whatever thingy where your goal is to get the best angle on celebrity X without getting thrown out by security. Why not?

  45. Of course the thing I proposed has already been done by Richard Hofmeier. Also, what?

  46. Well, technically it’s not about traditional paparazzing, since there’s the implication that your actions have great political weight.

    Also, isn’t the video clear enough? A deformed ex actor who’s seeking revenge from those who ruined his career pretends to be a TV show’s director of photography so he can trick the cameraman into performing such a close-up that it kills one of the cast. You said “FPS where you’re shooting with a camera” so I remembered this Phantom of the Opera parody where a camera’s used as a killing weapon. Brilliant stuff.

  47. @matt: Ha, ha. No I didn’t get confused like that. Maybe it’s your Apple machine. I don’t trust it.

    @david: I will have to try that out when I get home. After drinks. Well, maybe not today then.

  48. This all brings up some points that I’ve seen brought up with Dark Souls and, of all things, Dragon Quest 9. The creators of both games have essentially said, it’s 201X, everyone has the internet, everyone who is going to play this game probably knows Gamefaqs or has a friend or two who has the game or at the very least is savvy enough to type “Dark Souls” into Google, find the official website, and ask a question in the forum there. Developers who want to make hard games or games with a lot of secret content–and there are woefully fewer and fewer of them with mainstream budgets these days, much as I’m starting to really love the indie shit I really love that games with the scope and ambition and raw quality of Dark Souls exist–have to work to catch up with the internet. (That’s a major reason I loved Dark Souls, incidentally–the developers understand the ways people have to connect with each other and share game tips, and it inspired them to work really hard on their game. (That game reeks of sweat. I love it.)

    But to that point, there’s a difference between, for example, strategies for how to beat the Capra demon, or where a secret door is, and conversations about mechanics. Dark Souls makes no secret about its mechanics–a good 70-80% of its control scheme is laid out for you in graffiti within the first half hour of the game, and other techniques (such as the timing of the various weapons) comes through experimentation.

    Starseed Pilgrim is ALL about its mechanics, though. It tells you its main verbs–walk, jump, plant–and then leaves you to figure out what it means. And yeah, a lot of the fun IS experimenting. One of the first major intellectual goals of the game is figuring out what the various seeds do, the properties of each. (A subgoal might be figuring out that the various seeds HAVE properties.) The way I did that was treating the game like a toy almost–no matter what you plant, a pretty design appears and there’s soothing music. And eventually you realize, okay, I drop this color seed, it makes this kind of shape, or it creates a block with these properties and then the game slowly opens up.

    Owen Grieve wrote a pretty decent guide for Midnight Resistance ( which is, essentially, a list of the seeds and the basic “routine” of the game, and I do admit that I enjoyed figuring out the game better than if I’d just read the guide. (I spent a few days with the game before reading the article, and had known pretty much everything that was in there.)

    I’m also thinking of a conversation that I had with Amanda Lange at Indiecade–we were talking about Fez, and I mentioned that there was a puzzle I’d read an article about, apparently a forum got together and organized how to solve one of the puzzles. I believe there was some kind of brute-force type of solution, or maybe they all mechanically did a cypher together (someone who paid attention to this please help me out here!) At the time that had turned me off of the game because I was loving it on its own but didn’t want to have to interact with a community to finish it. Amanda knew the puzzle in question and said that that wasn’t the optimal solution–the clues to the puzzle were hidden throughout the game; that the crowd had to brute-force it was a failure of either them to recognize the clues or of Fish to make them more legible (or perhaps both).

    At the same time, much of Fez was beyond my ken. I love playing adventure games in pairs or small groups–one of my favorite adventure game memories was of playing Missing Since January with an ex–totally a case of two guys putting their heads together and solving a game. I’ve got access to a lot of PC adventure games as part of Gamefly and I would like to play some, but it’s boring to wander around a place by yourself and then you just end up going to Gamefaqs when you’re stuck. So I don’t know. I like being forced to figure out Starseed Pilgrim on my own, because every insight I’ve had about the game has been totally on my own. At the same time, we’re all chipping away at this thing and it feels very lonely and silo’d and it would be good if we could coop in some way. (I wish there were more multiplayer co-op explorey things.)

    It’s also letting me know that if Starseed Pilgrim is so hard to talk about, The Void is going to be a challenge.

    @matt w …frr abj guvf jubyr gvzr V jnf ernqvat vg nf “hc neebj gung lbh hfr n xrl va”. Jryy. Abj qba’g V ybbx fvyyl.

  49. I read that article too. I only read it after I felt I’d made significant progress and it didn’t spoil anything for me. Being told all those basic rules I feel rips the heart out of the game. As you said, Starseed Pilgrim is a game about figuring out a game, which means writing about it is a real problem. Anything you say is spoiler territory.

    Still, I needed to take a break. I was getting quite frustrated when I repeatedly failed in my “plans”. I keep thinking maybe I am missing an additional mechanic somewhere to make my plans more likely to succeed.

  50. To completely change the subject, I’m good at being Console Guy but playing PC games is a goddamn mess. Between all of the bundles I have access to, GoG stuff, Steam stuff, random games I’ve just downloaded here and there, I have no clue where all of the games I have are. Part of this has to do with me being totally clueless with technology and organization–but how do you folks keep track of everything you have on tap?

  51. Well, I gave up on Evergrace. If this was around the launch of the PS2, I’d be all for finishing it, but there’s just no point anymore. It does have the novelty of being the first of many in the rather random trend of PS2 action-RPGs with a male and female protagonist that indirectly work together. The sequel sounds much better, but I haven’t gotten it yet.

    So I played and beat Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex for the PS2, instead. While it wasn’t an exceptional third-person shooter, it was well above competent. And you can wall-jump! More shooters need wall-jumping. Also, it has two specific features every gun-centric game should have: replaying with infinite ammo and your choice of gun. Those probably don’t mesh with more cinematic experiences, but frankly, fuck ’em.

    Notepad! I mean, I usually keep a list of games I still want and aren’t on sites with built-in wishlists. Then again, I’ve generally had a dearth of spending money for almost a year now, so the library is small as-is.

  52. @BeamSplashX Note-pad, eh? How curiously delightful! 🙂 Nah, obvious and great idea. I’m not in the best financial straights myself, but everyone keeps tossing bundles at me all HERE FOR FIVE DOLLARS YOU CAN GET LIKE SEVENTY GAMES and now there’s like a dozen packets like that in my life…

  53. I have a folder called GamesOpen. I put unplayed zips, packages and blank folders with names of games I haven’t played/downloaded yet. When I have finished the game, I move it into the Games folder.

    This has served me well for three years. Steam also has categories and I have a “YET TO PLAY” folder in there too.

    I feel like I cannot pass meaningful comment on your PS2 experiences, Beam. So I will provide meaningless comment: Evergrace, woooo.

    Note: I intend to close this comment thread when we get onto Open Mike #2. I am going to try posting a new thread monthly.

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